Solar: cheaper, cleaner, and more Climate-Friendly than Coal(+Other Traditional Fossil Fuels)


Solar power is perhaps the most well-known form of renewable energy and the simplest to conceptualize. Since its discovery in the mid 17th century, solar panels have become far more complex and efficient but essentially operate in the same manner. Sunlight strikes a compound which produces electrons and another part of the panel accepts those electrons causing them to flow through a conductor which leads to a storage mechanism like a battery (Energy Matters).

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

Thomas Edison, 1931

“When there’s a huge solar energy spill, it’s just called a ‘nice day’ ”

Vote Solar billboard, 2012

The Basics

Solar power is trending towards being the least expensive source of energy and has clearly made significant strides in decreasing cost since 2009.
Citation: Shayanne Gal/ Business Insider

The upfront cost of solar appears daunting but can be quickly regained. How much could it save you?

Solar panels are unique because require very little maintenance. They have no moving parts and only require cleaning in some instances. Moving parts essentially equal problems, think of a car which has over 2,000 moving parts. Think of repairing wind turbines, oil rigs, natural gas wells, and coal mines and the fleet of maintenance staff each one requires. Solar panels essentially only require cleaning which can be done with a hose (domestically) or by one person 2-4 times a year in the case of a solar farm. The cleaning could also be easily mechanized in the near future.

Drawdown solutions is a website that outlines the cost and details to the top 100 solutions to combating climate change.

As you can see, two separate Solar related solutions rank in Drawdown Solutions, rooftop as well as Solar farms.

If you have time the Drawdown Ted Talk is well worth your time.

Proximity to the equator is the simplest way to explain powerful exposure, the closer a solar panel is to the equator the more direct sunlight it will get, meaning the sunlight hits the panel at less of an angle allowing for the most “powerful exposure.” Solar panel orientation is also important as the sun moves throughout the day. In the Northern Hemisphere panels should be pointed south and in the Southern Hemisphere, panels should be pointed north. The angles of the panels depend on location and are should be adjusted seasonally for maximum efficiency (How to…).

Mountain Top Removal in the Midwest
Mountain Top Removal has become the go-to method for coal mining in the Midwest/Applacia Region. Corporations essentially cut off the top portion of a mountain to have easy access to the coal that lies inside. This process has numerous repercussions that are simply unacceptable. Consequences can include pollution of land and waterways with heavy metals which leads to health issues in humans as well as natural ecosystems. It is really a deplorable practice.

Here is a link explaining the process and its aftermath.

Below is a Petition to Stop Mountain Top Removal that you can sign!

Trade War

Solar Panels have dramatically decreased in price as you saw above but that is due to intense competition among companies as well as nations. Competition is great for the consumers, in an economic sense, sa price is decreased. However, when countries become involved things become complicated. Economically, free trade is ideal and that is certainly not the case with solar power. A good example of this is the tariff the US has placed on Chinese solar panels.

China choose incentivize the development of solar and as a result has reaped the rewards and now produces solar panels at the lowest cost while the US has struggled to lower cost. This, at least in part, is due to the US’ decision to not originally invest in solar and rather choosing to continue to prop up fossil fuels. The existing tariff is working; US solar production is up, but it costs more. This increased cost could have been avoided in the first place had the US invested in the development of solar as the Chinese did.

Below is a Case Sunvia, Inc brought to the US Trade Commission supporting a tariff that the industry opposes.

Future Of Solar

Marjan van Aubel details the future of solar panels beyond traditional designs. Here is another example of a , literally far out, solar farm.
Here is another radical Idea that is edging towards being feasible. This article is an interesting facet of the above article


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  1. April 27, 2019 by bryent.takayama

    Hey George! I’ve always been fascinated by the power of solar energy. But, how much does the distance that one lives from the equator lessen the effectiveness of installing panels? I live in Seattle, WA, where we do not receive much sunlight. Would installing solar be reasonable from an economic standpoint?

  2. April 28, 2019 by Luis Mendoza Perez

    Hey George! I really love all the media aspects of your presentation. Do you feel like the reason the majority of people won’t move to solar is because of the upfront cost? Do you believe our government should do something to mitigate that in the form of a subsidized loan or another solution?

  3. April 28, 2019 by Gavin

    Hey George, very informative presentation. I thought your portion on free trade and solar panels was particularly interesting. My question for you is in terms of promoting solar power would it be best to support free trade of solar panels or keep in place the tariffs we have to protect american production of them? obviously there is more at play than just the cost since solar will also have to compete with fossil fuels on the production level as well as consumer level.

  4. April 29, 2019 by David Long

    HI George,

    Great presentation! You make a compelling argument for the move towards solar energy. Do you think the government should subsidize people who want to go solar or provide bigger tax credits?

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